Costa Concordia, Final Report: The Captain Did It

Costa ConcordiaCosta Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy in January 2012, where the cruise ship still sits today. Removal of the ship is a well-defined work in progress, now over halfway complete. Placing blame for the grounding, which resulted in the death of 32 people, is also coming into focus. Last week, Italian maritime authorities released a 176-page official report that documents much of what we already knew and verifies some suspicions.

Captain Francesco Schettino, 53, is blamed for causing the accident and delaying the evacuation. He is charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. The report verifies that Schettino was in command of the vessel when it hit rocks off the coast of Tuscany.

OK, Maybe I Did Not Fall Into A Life Boat
Initially, Schettino had said that he “tripped and fell into a life boat,” rather than abandoning his ship. It was a claim he stuck to for months, vowing to clear his name.

“Soon I will reveal the shocking truth,” said Schettino in our report Captain Of Wrecked Cruise Ship Cries Foul, Says He’s Innocent. “And then all those people who denigrated me will have to apologize, not to me but to the families of the victims and to the public, which was conned with false information.”

That apology probably won’t be coming any time soon. According to the report, Schettino boarded a lifeboat leaving 300 passengers on board and was on land while 80 people were still on the ship, fighting for their lives.

The Captain Is Responsible, Like It Or Not
The report also highlights some serious communication problems, tagging Schettino for blame. One of he most serious: the Italian Coast Guard was not advised of the grounding by the ship, finding out only after being advised by a passenger’s mother.

Other elements of the incident, directly attributable to Schettino:

  • The grounding happened by sailing too fast and too close to shore
  • Delayed sounding the general alarm
  • Unauthorized people on the bridge were distracting him
  • Failed to consult large scale maps, causing him to use the wrong landmark on the island of Giglio to turn the ship
  • Minimized the seriousness of the accident to the coast guard

At one point in the aftermath of the Costa Concordia grounding, Schettino insisted that he saved thousands of lives by steering the ship toward shore where it eventually grounded. According to the detailed report, that would not have been possible as the ship’s rudder was not working at the time.

Other officers on Costa Concordia at the time have alleged blame too, mainly for allowing Schettino to make misleading “everything is just fine” announcements to passengers. His business-as-usual attitude apparently caused crew members to lose valuable time performing emergency duties.

Schettino denies the charges, but in May it was decided that there was enough evidence to try him for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard.

On the bright side, cruise travel has never been safer.

Right after the grounding of Costa Concordia, cruise lines worldwide took a detailed look at safety procedures in an industry-wide Operational Safety Review then a Preparedness Risk Assessment in 2013, bringing new rules and procedures that were universally adopted by all major lines. A new Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights came out in May that details generally accepted procedures cruise travelers may not have known about.

Schettino will be the only defendant in a trial, which will begin on July 9 in Italy.

Want to see Costa Concordia, as it is today? Check out this recent video:

Carnival Cruise Line Shake Down Begins, And That’s A Good Thing

carnival cruise

Carnival Cruise Lines fleet of FunShips have plied the oceans of the world for over 40 years, enabling travelers to sample a variety of destinations and cultures. Many of those travelers might not have ventured out of their own back yards without the affordable, normally safe and secure travel option largely pioneered by Carnival. Reporting this week from Cruise Shipping Miami, the South By Southwest of the cruise industry, Gadling was on the scene when the story broke: another Carnival ship in trouble.

Just days before reports of Carnival Dream, her passengers and crew stuck at the dock in St Maarten, Carnival’s President and CEO Gerry Cahill participated with other cruise industry leaders in a keynote panel discussion.

Addressing February’s Carnival Triumph incident, when an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, Cahill updated the crowd on hand for the annual State of the Industry discussion. A signature event of Cruise Shipping Miami, last year’s event was dominated by the aftermath of the Costa Concordia grounding. Costa Cruises, like Carnival Cruise Lines, are sister brands along with others that fall under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.

“I can assure you since this fire has occurred it has been the number one priority for both Carnival Cruise Lines and Carnival Corporation,” said Cahill of a comprehensive safety review in-progress on the entire Carnival fleet.

Bringing in experts in fire safety, naval architects, marine engineers, electrical engineers, experts from shipyards and more, Carnival seemed committed to raising the bar on safety as never before. The U.S. Coast Guard determined the cause of Carnival Triumph’s fire to be a failed fuel return line, one that had been properly maintained at correctly scheduled intervals.

“This review is very comprehensive, it will take us a little bit of time to complete it,” said Cahill “but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization.”

Doubling down on safety protocols while the detailed fleet review continues, Carnival is taking nothing for granted.

carnival cruiseCarnival Dream‘s six massive diesel-electric engines offered over 84,000 in horsepower and were functioning properly. But before going to sea, all systems on the ship are tested and one of those is backup power.

Carnival Dream’s backup system did not pass the test. So with the Carnival Triumph incident fresh in their minds, the failed generator became a “no sail” issue. That’s the good part of the story. Carnival could have allowed the Dream to sail the over 1,100 nautical miles back to Port Canaveral; the ships propulsion system worked.

But taking a page from recent history, a mechanical issue that might not have caused concern before came under the microscope, much like Carnival Cruise Lines, if not the entire cruise industry.

What if some other unknown, unanticipated mechanical breakdown occurred half way between St Maarten and Florida’s Port Canaveral? Carnival has clearly adopted a laser-focused concentration on safety, looking for any issue that could disrupt what should be a fabulous FunShip cruise.

Dream Event Incomplete, Here Comes Another One
Just a day after Carnival Dream was held at the dock (the cruise line equivalent of being grounded, much like the Boeing Dreamliner recently), Carnival Legend was recalled to the port of Tampa, citing propulsion problems. The engines were working; the ship just did not have the ability to go fast enough.

This issue might sound a bit more familiar to frequent cruise travelers. Reduced propulsion issues happen with a bit more frequency on cruise ships from multiple lines and for a variety of reasons.

Design flaws aside, moving parts wear out and these engines and the propulsion systems they provide power for are moving all the time, every day of the year.

carnival cruiseEven docked, ships engines are running, albeit at a reduced speed or with a different fuel, for environmental impact reasons. A handful of ships can “plug in” to a shore side power grid but the amount of reduction in emissions is debatable (the power still comes from somewhere) and plugging in only reduces emissions while in port (there are no extension cords).

In the case of Carnival Legend’s recall to port, that move too might not have happened pre-Triumph. Ships with limited (but reliable) propulsion issues commonly run modified itineraries that do not require the drive system to be quite as vibrant.

Carnival Cruise Lines and its sister cruise lines are not taking any chances. They have brought in experts to look for issues not thought of before and are taking quick action when safety concerns come up.

“It is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with solutions we will implement across our fleet,” added an obviously committed, apologetic and humble Cahill.

The Big Question
But the ugly elephant question in the room is, fairly: “OK, so maybe these things are freak accidents or an abundance of caution. Why are they all happening to Carnival Cruise Lines?”

Results from third-party sources indicate that Carnival Cruise Lines is operating at a level that meets or exceeds that of regulatory organizations world wide, including the very picky U.S. Coast Guard. Believe that, and the negligence hat does not fit.

Maybe the other cruise lines have higher standards. That dog won’t hunt either. Carnival Cruise Line is just one of the Carnival Corporation family of brands that also includes Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Cunard Line, none of which have Triumph-like events in their history.

Still, bad things happen to good travel options and cruise travel is no exception. Like the hotel fires that occurred with some frequency in the first half of the last century, right now is a time when cruise lines are addressing safety concerns as never before.

Cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy.com put it well in a recent Huffington Post article:

“One of the many lessons I’ve learned in the industry over the past 24 years is that policies and procedures are constantly evolving. Nothing is etched in stone and improvements will always be made, especially when safety is concerned.”

When thinking of the post-Truimph era of cruise travel, who better to pioneer raising the bar, creating new protocols regarding the issue of safety than the organization that created the industry in the first place?

While shoddy journalism by a whole bunch of news organizations clearly focus on sensationalizing the story, I’d hate to forget the contribution to the world of travel that cruises have made. Carnival Cruise Line is shaking down their ships, looking for and trying to anticipate anything that can go wrong. We hope their efforts keep that door to the world of travel open to those who might not otherwise have seen it.


[Photo credit – Chris Owen]

New Costa Concordia Video Released As Survivors Gather To Remember

When the cruise ship Costa Concorida went aground off the coast of Italy last year on Friday, the 13th of January, 32 people on board lost their lives. Still under investigation in the tragedy, ten people including the ship’s captain Francesco Schettino and three senior executives from Costa Cruises. New video released by the Italian Coast Guard this weekend shows rescue operations on the night of the grounding, as survivors gather on the Italian island of Giglio to remember the event.


In the aftermath, cruise lines that had already focused on safety as a top priority, re-examined everything they do in reference to passenger, crew and ship safety. The result of that focus as brought a safer travel option and may very well have saved many more lives from being lost in the future.

Court proceedings began in Italy last October, based on evidence from the ship’s black box recordings, navigational details and conversations recorded on the bridge of the ship. Part of the 270 pages of documents before the court is Captain Francesco Schettino’s testimony that his ship was not too close to the island of Giglio. Schettino maintains that he was simply following company policy to “salute” the island.

On board Costa Concordia at the time captain Schettino allegedly went off course on a joy ride/salute with the 121,000-ton ship were 4,229 passengers from 70 countries.

Costa Concordia, A Year Later

costa concordiaCosta Concordia sailed aground off the coast of Italy one year ago this Sunday. Today, the ship sits off the coast of Italy where it ran aground on Friday, January 13, 2012, taking the lives of 32 passengers in the process. Ongoing work is underway to remove the grounded ship. Also ongoing is a renewed focus on safety that exceeds previous efforts, covers all major cruise lines and aims to convince many travelers that cruise travel is safe.

Those on board the Costa Concordia at the time initially said it was “like being on the Titanic.” The loss of life may not have been as great but parallels drawn between the Titanic and Concordia were undeniable.

Passengers in the wrong place at the wrong time were left without life jackets. Confusion about what to do and where to go reined over already-in-place safety procedures. Over-confident ship owners were forced to take another look at how they go about their business.

In the aftermath came rules requiring mandatory safety drills before ships leave port, including mandates that each ship carry extra life jackets and that crews practice loading lifeboats with people. New rules also call for cruise lines to file a voyage plan showing exactly where ships are going, much like a pilot’s flight plan.

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Still, questions remain about the role ship’s Captain Francesco Schettino had in the event. Also of concern: progress on the removal of Costa Concordia from the coast of Italy and enduring environmental risks to marine life.

Costa Cruises, along with its salvage company, has launched a website with detailed information, plans and images relating to the Costa Concordia wreck-removal project. See more on this extensive engineering task via this video:


A ceremony is set for the island of Giglio on Sunday where sirens will go off at 9:42 p.m, marking the one-year anniversary of the Costa Concordia grounding.

[Photo Credit- Flickr User EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection]

Video Of The Day: Amazing Ice Sculptures Wow Crowds In Japan


Today’s Video of the Day comes from last year’s Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan. Press “play” and you’ll see why the week-long festival is one of the largest winter events in the country, attracting nearly two million people. Hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures take over Sapporo‘s expansive Odori Park, as well as Susukino, a shopping and entertainment district, and the Sapporo Community Dome, widely known as Tsudome. If you’re planning to travel to Japan in February, pencil Tuesday, February 5 through Monday, February 11 into your calendar so you don’t miss out on the 2013 festivities.